April 2020, Sarasota, Florida.
National Arbor Day was celebrated on April 24, 2020 this year to promote cleaner air and water, protect wildlife in their natural habitats, and improve human health — all through planting and nurturing trees.
In recognition of National Arbor Day, and the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, DSCA celebrates the work of so many City of Sarasota residents who worked tirelessly to create the City of Sarasota Downtown Green Space Policies (2011). This grassroots effort in 2007 was led by Carol Reynolds, Jude Levy, Barbara Campo, Kate Lowman and John Moran (DSCA President at the time). Their effort identified the problem of commercial development in the greater Downtown Sarasota that was removing trees and greenspace and replacing with impervious pavers and palm trees.
The coalition of Downtown Sarasota Condominium Association (DSCA) and Save Our Sarasota (SOS), along with many of their supporters, came in front of the City Commission on October 15, 2007 and requested the City to adopt a policy statement for green infrastructure to achieve three important goals:
- safeguard the quality of Sarasota’s coastal waters,
- promote an urban ecosystem to provide the highest social, environmental and economic benefits and
- adopt an urban growth model to recognize the meaningful role of trees and landscape as a bio-utility
The City Commission approved the motion to direct City Manager to develop a strategic greenspace plan reflecting that downtown is for the entire City through a process that includes significant public input , and that plan would place priority on greenspace and include a vision for the City’s Downtown parks and streetscapes. [Motion was updated Jan. 7, 2008]
These local resident greenspace advocates planned and with City support, held a Sarasota Green Space Workshop on Jan. 15, 2008, with over 120 members of the public in attendance. The first draft of the Downtown Green Space Policy was presented at City Commission on May 19, 2008. On June 2, 2008 the City Commission approved the motion to direct Staff to move forward with the Downtown Greenspace Draft Policies with changes as discussed by the Commission, direct Staff to amend the language of the Downtown Master Plan 2020 to reflect greenspace is preferred over hardscape, and create a Greenspace Advisory Committee to discuss the design of the Palm Avenue and Main Street bulbouts and proceed to the Downtown Greenspace Draft Policy if approved by the Commission. The DSCA & SOS residents continued to work together and engaged with City staff as they developed and brought the final Downtown Green Space Policies forward for approval by the City Planning Board (Dec. 8, 2010), unanimously by the Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board (CRAAB) (Dec. 9, 2010) and unanimously by the City Commission (Feb. 7, 2011).
Along the way, this resident-led grassroots effort succeeded in not only having the City adopt this important sustainability policy and amend the Downtown Master Plan (2020), this grassroots effort also resulted in:
III. Implementation. The Downtown Green Space Policies is an Administrative Regulation to the Downtown Master Plan 2020, the City of Sarasota Public Landscape Installation and Maintenance Guidelines, the City’s Land Development Regulations including the Comprehensive Plan, the Zoning Code, and the Engineering Design Criteria Manual.
… maintaining public health, safety, and welfare are important tenets in the development of these Guidelines. A properly designed, installed and well maintained landscape can provide many benefits to the community including increased property values, improved air quality, reduced soil and wind erosion and reduced storm water runoff. Landscapes provide habitat for a variety of wildlife thus promoting a healthy ecology. Landscape plants clean the air by capturing dust particles and other pollutants while absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. Energy conservation is realized by reducing the urban heat island effect and cooling the community in hot summer months. [bolding is from original text]
So, this month when we celebrate National Arbor Day, and the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, let’s recognize that protecting our environment is hard work! Let’s also SALUTE those resident pioneers in the City of Sarasota who worked so hard over a decade ago and those who continue the effort on behalf of our rapidly growing downtown population. Here is a sentiment from one of these downtown green space pioneers reflecting on their effort: “What we could never understand was why we had to work so hard to get the City to adopt something that citizens all over the country want – more greenspace and less hardscape!”
There is still more to be done. The Downtown Green Space Policies requires City staff to Manage the Urban Forest using the best management principles:
- Develop a Street Tree Planting Plan for all streets in the Downtown Bayfront (DTB), Downtown Core (DTC), and Downtown Edge (DTE) zone districts.
- Canopy trees are preferred in the public right-of-way.
Nine years later these issues still need to be addressed, and it appears that it is going to take continuing public effort to implement these Downtown Green Space Policies. Please join the effort through the DSCA Greenspace Committee. Contact the DSCA President to let us know how you can help. Send your email to: Downtown.Sarasota.Condo.Assoc@gmail.com